- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

The 55th annual National Day of Prayer yesterday was highlighted by President Bush’s appeal to people of all faiths to pray for guidance in the future of the United States.

“A prayerful spirit has always been an important part of our national character,” he said. “Americans of many faiths and traditions share a common belief that God hears the prayers of his children and shows grace to those who seek Him.”

The proclamation also included prayers for “the brave members of our Armed Forces,” and for the 32 Virginia Tech students and teachers fatally shot April 16 and their families.

Outside the Supreme Court, William J. Murray, the Christian son of a prominent atheist, helpedlead prayers. Mr. Murray, of the Religious Freedom Coalition, is the son of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who was outspoken in her anti-religious beliefs. She and another son, Jon, and daughter Robin were murdered in 2000.

Similar prayers were scheduled yesterday in the capitals of the 50 states. Congress ordered the “national day” in 1952. President Reagan in 1988 designated the third day of May for unification of the prayers.

In the District, the observance this year began Sunday evening as students and adults from across the country began reading the Bible aloud on the West Lawn of the Capitol. They concluded the reading about 90 hours later, yesterday afternoon, a couple hours before a three-hour session of prayers began there.

About 1,000 volunteers participated in the reading marathon, said Michael Hall, who with his wife, Terry Schaffer Hall, directs the U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon.

“We have people from every state,” Mr. Hall said. “It’s a celebration of the First Amendment Rights.”

In accord with the rule that all religions and faiths participate, the marathon offered 107 non-English Bibles to foreign participants.

The day was also observed during the noon hour at the Pentagon, with Col. William Broome, an Army chaplain, presiding.

Kenneth Bronstein, founder of the Center for Atheism, designated that atheist members donate blood on that day.

Among prominent people who urged observance of National Day of Prayer was Tony Dungy, 51, coach of the professional Indianapolis Colts football team.

An estimated 2 million people in the United States participated in the National Day of Prayer in 2006.

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